Bermondsey In Photos: 1930-2017

The part of London I grew up in has changed since 1930, but most of it is still recognisable.

Girls playing in a back garden in Marden Road, 1930

Shoppers at the busy street market. Blue Anchor Lane, around 1932.

A VE Day street party, 1945.

Market traders and a passing Tram. Bermondsey Street, 1945.

Tommy Steele was a local boy who became a famous pop singer in 1956. He went on to a career in pop musicals and hit records that lasted until today. (He is 85) This is a modern photo, superimposed over one of excited fans greeting him outside St James’s church Bermondsey, early 1960s. The same church where my parents were married.

Tommy again, in 1966. He is visiting a school in Bermondsey.

Paragon Secondary School, early 1970s. The Victorian school in Searles Road Bermondsey was later converted into apartments, in 2000.

A grandmother watching her granddaughter, 1976.

High-rise flats built in the late 1960s, photographed in 2017.

Gay Love In Victorian England: 1885-1901

In late Victorian England, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, outlawing sexual relations between men (but not between women) is given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria. Despite the passing of that law, many gay men continued to flout it of course, and some posed for photos with their lovers and friends. Like most societal rules in Victorian times, that law was hypocritical. At a time when child prostitution (female and male) was rife, and cross-dressing was popular in upper-class society, the law was rarely enforced.

Cross-dressing aristocrats posing with their lovers.

A nobleman with his younger lovers.

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, his young lover. Wilde was famously imprisoned for Sodomy, and that ruined his life.

Mature gay men, happy to record their love on a photo.

Two gay lovers having a photo taken as a memoir.

Two more doing the same.

Lesbians were not considered to actually exist in Victorian society, and the word was never used to describe them at the time. Women were presumed to have ‘companions’, or ‘close friends’. Although they could not be prosecuted, gossip could ruin them socially, and most were under great pressure from their families to marry a man. But that did not stop many of them recording their love by having photographs taken.

Some dressed as men for the photos, and perhaps did the same in private.

It would not be until 1967 when homosexuality was decriminalised in England, when it was legalised between consenting adults in private.

As of July 2020, the following countries still have laws that can prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality:

Afghanistan
Brunei
Iran
Mauritania
Nigeria
Saudi Arabia
Somalia
United Arab Emirates

19th Century Whitby: The Photos of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

I found an article online about this Victorian portrait photographer. He took hundreds of photos of the English fishing port and tourist town of Whitby, in the 1880s. Whitby is in Yorkshire, and is still incredibly popular with tourists to this day. The town also inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, and is the setting for Dracula arriving after a Russian ship is wrecked nearby. It was also the home of the famous explorer, Captain James Cook.

I have visited the town a couple of times, and enjoyed the delicious fish and chips sold there. Whitby is also known for the sale of Jet jewellery. Jet is a gemstone made from decaying wood under extreme pressure. It’s a type of coal-substance that washes up on the beaches of Whitby that’s approximately 182 million years old.

Here are some of Frank’s wonderful sepia photographs.
(They can be fully enlarged by clicking on them, and the detail is superb.)

Fish sellers at the harbour.

A member of the Lifeboat crew wearing a cork life-jacket.

A ‘smoke-break’.

Steam-tug towing a larger vessel into harbour.

Ships at anchor in the harbour. The abbey ruins can be seen on the hill behind.

Farming outside the town.

Local women preparing shellfish on the cobbled street.

More fish-sellers.

The view across the harbour.

A similar view in modern day Whitby. (Uncredited.)

Pet Meat: The Sellers In Photos 1880-1936

From 1800 until the late 1930s, the ownership of pets in London increased to huge levels. Especially cat ownership, as cats were favoured to contol the mice that invaded every home, and rats too. In the year 1861 alone, it was recorded (by Henry Mayhew) that around 300,000 cats lived in London homes.

This was an opportunity for a new trade, selling pet meat. Starting out by wandering the streets with carts or baskets, pet meat sellers soon established regular rounds. After WW1, some traders transferred to market stalls, or rented shops.

They sold horse meat, which was widely available due to the hundreds of worn-out or injured horses slaughtered each day in London. Generally considered to be unfit for human consumption, and often tainted or spoiled, this meat was cheap to buy, and readily eaten by cats and dogs.

There were so many pet meat sellers in the city, they attracted the attention of street photographers who captured this lost trade for us, and preserved the history of it.

The Real Wild West In Photos: 1880s

Like most people, I was shown a version of the Wild West by Hollywood films, and TV shows. Gunfights, saloon bar brawls, brave sheriffs, and cowardly bushwackers. The nice guys wore white hats and tin stars, the bad men had black hats, robbed stagecoaches, and shot people in the back. It was not until I was older, reading books and looking at actual photos from the time, that I realised just how romanticised and inaccurate all of that was.

Wyatt Earp. (Not much like Kurt Russell)

Wild Bill Hickock.

Butch Cassidy. (Nothing like Paul Newman.)

Doc Holliday. (Val Kilmer was a good choice for the role in the film ‘Tombstone’.)

Cole Younger. A member of the James Gang.

Jesse James.

Johnny Ringo, a notorious gunman killed in 1882.

Some of Wyatt Earp’s deputies.

Calamity Jane. (I had only known of her from the Doris Day musical film.)

Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon in Texas.

Gambling in a Missouri Saloon.

William Bonney, known as Billy The Kid.

Saloon-girl prostitutes.

Poverty in New York City: 1888

I have posted many photos about London in the 19th century. But I never forget that 60% of my followers are from America, and I want to post things relevant to them as well. So here is a post of photos from the famous photographer, Jacob Riiss, and his images of poverty in New York City in 1888. There are no detailed captions, but they need little explanation.

London: More Street Scenes From the 1880s

I found some more! I hope you are not bored with these yet?
All of these photos were taken between 1880 and 1889, when Victoria was still The Queen.
(Some can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

An early electric car in Lower Regent Street. You can see the chauffeur and footman in the front, and the very rich owners enjoying the ride in the back.

A policeman directing traffic under Ludgate Viaduct.

A busy morning outside Charing Cross Station.

The Aldgate Pump, East London. A source of fresh water for local people.

Harrods, the famous department store.

Islington High Street. The horse-drawn tram is running on tracks in the road.

The busy junction outside Kings Cross Station.

The Royal Courts Of Justice. They look just the same today.

Customers and children pose outside the Old King’s Head pub, St Pancras.

Threadneedle Street, close to The Bank Of England.

Tottenham Court Road.

Whitechapel Road, East London. The London Hospital is on the right. It was once home to the famous ‘Elephant Man’, John Merrick, before his death. He would likely have been living there at the time this was taken. There is still a very busy hospital on that site. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_London_Hospital

Remembrance Sunday 2022

For the Fallen

Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Scenes From Old London: 1900

More everyday scenes from London, photographed around 1900.

A policeman directing the busy horse-drawn traffic in Piccadilly.

A similar scene in Piccadilly on a different day. Traffic congestion was just as bad 122 years ago as it is now.

Piccadilly Circus at the time.

Clerkenwell, known as ‘Little Italy’.

A street in Kensington, when that area was considered to be a slum.

A woman selling fish from a cart. (Jon has let me know this was actually taken in Whitby, Yorkshire. It was listed along with the others as ‘Old London’. I have left it in anyway, as it is evocative of the era.)

Wych Street.

Seven Dials, Covent Garden.

Some parts of London were still very rural in 1900. Here is a blacksmith’s forge in Highgate at the time, and a residential street nearby.

An Alphabet Of My Life: K

K=Kindness.

When I was quite young, I don’t remember the exact age, my Mum gave me some advice.

“Be kind”.
“Be kind to animals”.
“Be kind to people”.
“Help people when you can”.
“Kindness costs nothing”.
“If you cannot say something kind, then say nothing at all”.

I took those words to heart, and have tried to live by them since. I went into a career as an EMT that required kindness as ‘stage one’ of any treatment. I was always kind to any animals or pets I encountered, and treated them with great respect.

When I felt I could say nothing kind to someone, I tried to be constructive or helpful instead.

Over 60 years later, I am still trying my very best to put kindness first.

Thanks, Mum.